What I Learned From A Whole Week Of Middle School Work Camp

I’m both sad and happy that our Middle School Work Camp S*MILE has come to an end.  I’m going to miss the teens from the other churches and I’ll miss being outside doing different task.  However, I look forward to getting back to planning the fall for our church’s student programming.  I know I’ve stated numerous times how I don’t enjoy the planning and preparing process of events, so you can imagine the stress and anxiety a week long event causes me.  Despite those feelings, I couldn’t be more happy with how things turned out.  Each day parents came up to me and the other youth workers to share that their child would come home each day with stories about the camp.  As hard as it is to do this camp I think it’s important that we have a week of service for the middle school students.  I’m not sure about your area but around here it is really hard to get them involved in service due to age restrictions (most places accept 14 and up).  But hosting a week long camp is also important as long as we:

  • Challenge Their Paradigms – By taking the students to an array of places (farms, inner city day care, shelters, assisted living facilities, etc.) we are able to walk these students into worlds that are so different from what they are use to.  I don’t think our students are sheltered, but there is a lot they haven’t seen, and a lot they don’t know.  Even if they don’t initially embrace the experience you can tell that seeds are being planted.
  • Create Large and Big Community – There were some days where we had the huge group tackle a project.  On these days the clicks form, you could see who had what type of work ethic; however, they still came together to take on a huge feat.  On the days when the groups were made smaller you could see students reaching out to those they wouldn’t do on a regular basis.  Not only were you making them step out of their comfort zone through the service but through the group that they served with.  What this emphasized is whether we are large or small we are united in Christ.
  • Encourage Story Telling – We had the students share their stories on Thursday to the large group.  I’ll admit we did a poor job of preparing them; however, some great testimonies emerged from certain students.  I believe we were all designed to tell a story and even though there are many ways to tell a story outside of speaking, it’s a habit that needs to be nurtured.  

The camp just ended but I’ll probably be meeting with my fellow youth ministers in the next week or two to digest the process.  From this experience I’m hoping we can capitalize more on the community and more on the evangelization aspects of service.  I’m not going to be too critical because after 3 years of doing this you can see that students are starting to do this for the right reasons, telling their friends to check it out, because they all feel that God is working.